Whether you love Rocky Balboa for his underdog attitude, or disdain his position as one of the world’s most famous Philadelphians, you can’t argue with the popularity of the boxer’s triumphant statue and the fame his movies brought to the steps behind it.
Over 4 million visitors a year flock to the monument in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art — and starting today, they’ll be able to buy official Rocky gear on the spot.
It’s the first time licensed apparel and souvenirs of the Sly Stallone Shop and Rocky franchise will be available in the area since 1982, city officials say.
The partnership happened because the big man himself made a call to the mayor to set things in motion, according to Kathryn Ott Lovell, president and CEO of Philadelphia Visitor Center Corporation.
“[Sylvester Stallone] went to visit the statue, as he often does when he’s in town,” Ott Lovell told Billy Penn, “and thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could sell the Sly Shop merchandise right here at the center of it all.’ So he then reached out to the mayor, and the rest is history.”
A tourism center outpost launched near the Art Museum steps last March, while this plan was already well in the works, per Ott Lovell.
Stallone contributed $100k to getting it built, joining state and local tourism and convention boards to fund what’s now known as the Parkway Outpost.
That center will have extended hours today, staying open through 7:30 p.m. to celebrate the launch of the Sly Shop merch, which isn’t available anywhere else in Philly, even online. You can pick up hats and shirts bearing Rocky’s face, the character’s classic fedora, and “Italian Stallion” branded training jackets, boxing shorts, or boxing robes. There are also souvenirs, like picture frames.
The Rocky Shop merch will be adjacent to locally-sourced Philly-themed keepsakes and souvenirs, Ott Lovell said, not push them out.
The 48-year-old West Philly resident, who took the reins of the Philadelphia Visitor Center Corp. over the summer after spending close to eight years running the city Dept. of Parks and Recreation, said she recognizes there’s some local pushback against the worldwide Rocky craze.
Real-life boxers like Joe Fraizer get much less attention, for example. And for several decades, the Art Museum refused to host the famed statue, commissioned by Stallone for “Rocky III,” so it bounced around several locations in the city, till landing back at the bottom of the steps.
Although Rocky wasn’t real, there is still “a little bit of Rocky in all of us,” Ott Lovell said.
“We are the underdog, we are the city that punches above our weight,” she added. “We are the city that goes 10 rounds, we love deeply, we bleed for things that we believe in.”
Anyone looking for their new favorite Rocky hat, boxing robe, general information, or tickets to attractions can stop by the Parkway Visitor Center Outpost from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Thursday through Monday.
This article has been updated to clarify the hours and availability of the merch at the Parkway Outpost.